Gareth Twigg, 23, from South Yorkshire, drove off on the machine on 7 July, and was then pursued by police in a “low speed chase” through Rugby, according to the Coventry Evening Telegraph.
He had climbed into the £30,000 digger's cab and ploughed straight through the fence of the site compound and onto a busy main road.
Police were notified, but after tracking down Twigg and chasing him for a further 100 metres, the thief jumped from the cab of the excavator.
The machine kept moving, drifting into the path of oncoming traffic, before eventually being brought to a standstill by police officers.
Twigg was subsequently arrested. At Warwick Crown Court, he was jailed for nine months and banned from driving for 18 months.